The Boy Who Once Chased Cats

I’d like to take a moment to tell you about the new book I’m working on entitled “The Boy Who Once Chased Cats.”

The idea for the story originated from a dream. I know. I know. How cliche. But, thats exactly how it happened.

In my dream I found myself in an old barn. It was dark and I was disoriented. I had a terrible feeling I was not alone. Something was hiding in the darkness, watching me.

At some point fear overtook me. I ran away and was chased down an old dirt road until I came to an old farmhouse. I opened the door and went inside. As I walked down a hallway I passed by a door. I looked into the room and saw a giant cat. He was standing in front of a full length mirror dressed in slacks and a shirt busily tying his tie.

To my surprise he turned slowly, looked right at me and said in a low even tone.

“Hello?”

That’s when I woke up. It was totally bizarre. However, the images and feelings stayed with me throughout the day. That evening when I got home from work, It was still on my mind. So much so that I decided to write it all down in my notebook.

The idea sat on the back burner for quite awhile. Months ago I took the idea up again and started developing characters and a plot.

What resulted from that endeavor is a 46 page chapter book aimed at middle grade readers. I believe the story is relevant to boys and girls alike. Perhaps more so to boys than girls.

I had a lot of fun writing it. It’s been amazing to see this dream come to life complete with illustrations.

You can read a sample online by following the link provided below or by going to my website. The booklet contains a preview of the first chapter and illustrations by Luke Spooner, an up and coming artist in the UK.

Anyway, I hope you’ll check it out and let me know your impressions. Leave a comment here or send me an email. Send me a tweet, FB message or whatever. I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks,
Russell

http://rkwhitehead.wix.com/russellwhitehead

http://tinyurl.com/o3p9dee

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My Life as an Author 2014

They say becoming a successful author is a tough road replete with disappointment. I’ve found that to be true. I can go from feeling like I’ve just written Disney’s next best seller to feeling like a total failure in a matter of minutes. It’s a constant cycle of ups and downs that occur seemingly for no reason. I suppose the sting of that first rejection letter still lingers somewhere deep within my psyche. However, I’ve learned that when those feelings of self-doubt and personal failure begin to creep in, it helps to focus on the positive.

For instance, that rejection letter I mentioned earlier really wasn’t so bad. As a matter of fact the agent encouraged me to submit my manuscript to others who may be more apt to work with it. The storyline and characters were simply not what she was looking for.

So far I’ve not taken her advice. Instead I’ve decided to continue along the path of being a self-published author, at least for the first five titles. I’m determined to improve my writing skills and learn everything I can about the business of being self-published. Still, the goal of securing an agent and ultimately getting published by a reputable company will be the priority for future projects.

I began writing fairytales and children’s stories years ago. I enjoy the process of creating characters and making up stories that will hopefully entertain and cause the reader to think.

Since I began I’ve self-published three titles. The fourth and fifth are on the way. I’ve done some of my own illustrations and cover art and collaborated with illustrators locally as well as internationally.

So far I have two book signing events under my belt. I’ve done three interviews with three different newspapers and even made the front page in one. I have a website, a Facebook page and Twitter account. I’m on Goodreads, Wattpad and WordPress.

And while sales have not sustained high numbers, one of my books “The Light Man,” actually hit the top one hundred best in children’s Christmas books on Amazon.

It’s quite an adventure. I’ve made contacts, struck up relationships with people and reached an audience all over the world. These are truly remarkable times we’re living in. 2014 has turned out to be a pretty successful year for me as an author. At least according to my standards. I’m excited about things to come in 2015.

Just the fact that you’re reading this post is an encouragement to me. I want you to know If you’re reading this then you’re important to me. I hope one day to call you a fan. If you’re out there, I’d love to hear from you! Send me an email. Leave a comment on my FB page or tweet. Let me know you’re out there. Subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll let you know what I’m up to. I’ll be posting giveaways, special pricing, news & events, release dates etc.

Thanks for following along,

Russell

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The Real Light Man

I recently released a children’s book entitled The Light Man. It was inspired by a man in Warner Robins Ga who, along with some of his neighbors, put on a spectacular lighting display every year at Christmas. You can read about that experience in my previous blog post Sept 4, 2014.

Anyway I had been asking around and digging around in old newspapers to find out who he was. I finally found out this man’s name was Jay Kohr. He passed away in 2002. You can check out his obituary here.

His son Pete shared this photo with me. It was great to know this book was well received by his family. It’s always good when a story I write resounds with someone other than myself.

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Book Review:The Moon Wants To Be Spotless White

Seeing the characters on the cover leads me to wonder. Where are they off to with the moon in tow? Wherever it is the moon seems happy enough to go along. The scene begs me to open the book to find out the rest of the story. A very well thought out, beautifully put together chapter book with excellent storytelling and superb illustrations. If you like fairytales and fables with a cultural slant then you are sure to enjoy this book. It’s a must have for your collection!

Mr. Bowtie 1989?

 

I believe it was 1989 or thereabouts when I first saw the man that inspired me to write my latest children’s book,  “The Light Man.”  As I recall it was cold and drizzling rain that night in December. The officer directing traffic bundled in his poncho waved his flashlights signaling it was our turn to enter the neighborhood on Oasis Avenue.

It was a mesmerizing experience to become completely immersed in so much Christmas cheer all at once. There were lines of cars.  The whole block was lit from one end to the other with any number of dazzling light displays. Cars were moving with headlights off. Traffic moved slowly and in short car length intervals. 

You could hear the motors running, people talking, voices and laughter coming from down the street as we rounded the corner. There we met a man wearing a white suit and hat with white shoes and a black bow tie, all of which had a glittering array of blinking lights attached. He was quite a sight walking beside the automobiles, covered head to toe with twinkling lights and waving at everyone in their cars.  You could hear them exchanging a “Merry Christmas!” with each other and see the tail lights glow as cars stopped just long enough for him to pass out candy canes to the little ones tucked inside.

As we got closer, I reached up on the dash and got my Kodak Funsaver disposable camera ready. I wanted to get a picture of this guy! Brake lights went dark on the car in front of us letting us know it was our turn to meet this spectacle of light.  He walked over and leaned down, I suppose to see inside the car better. He smiled and waved as we greeted each other with our own hearty “Merry Christmas!” That’s when I snapped the picture.

It would’ve been a really great photo too…if the flash had worked like it was supposed to. I guess thats why they call them disposable. As it happened though, I did get a cool looking color negative that I kept for a long time. They say in some cultures the natives will kill you if they catch you taking their picture because they think it steals their soul.  I dont know about that. But there is certainly something mysterious in the way a camera catches a moment in time and holds it captive. For years I would take  that negative out and hold it up to the light and there he was, frozen in time, smiling and waving with one hand, a handful of candy canes in the other. The look of pure joy on the face encapsulated on that Kodachrome film was amazing! How I wish I still had it.

Before I sat down to write this piece I tried to find out more about the man. I asked around on different social media sites and even searched the archives of the local paper hoping to find an article or a photo…something to prove to myself he existed.

I began to realize while scanning through 25 years worth of old newspapers on microfiche at the local library, that although my curiosity about the man was reasonable, I already knew all I needed to know.  I didn’t need to go knocking on doors to find proof.  The film may be lost. But the memory is forever etched in my mind.

Book Review: Cluck the Undercover Chicken

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Feathers and chicken feet man! This story by G. Eric Francis was a really fun read. It was well written with lots of humor throughout. I enjoyed the impromptu conversations between Cluck and the storyteller. It reminded me of the old Abbott & Costello routines. However, it could be a little confusing for some readers. I gave it 5 stars for originality and because I really enjoyed reading the story. I’m looking forward to the next one by this author!

Book Review: Roly-Poly Monster

If you’re like me, you’re constantly on the lookout for new material to share with your little ones. I picked this up on Amazon and I’m really glad I did! The story is fun to read and talk about and the illustrations are fun too. You can trace Roly-Poly Monster’s trail with your finger on the page or your kids may just want to roll along with him on his adventures. Its entirely up to you! A great book for your little people!

Book Review: Neptune’s Trident

 

I recently had the pleasure of reading Neptune’s Trident, one of a series of stand alone books that follow the adventures of Astro and his super secret organization of dogs. I have to say the author has put together a team of hilariously funny and likeable characters in this tale of adventure and intrigue.

I really enjoyed following along on this mission on the high seas… and below the seas too!

If you’re an animal lover like me and enjoy adventure, you’ll love this book by Susan Day! You’ll also appreciate the fact that her website states the book is part of the “Giving Back” program, which says that profit from the proceeds of sales goes to the Australian Animal Protection Society!

So in that way, Astro and the gang really are helping to keep all animals safe! That’s a really cool thing!

Book Review: Out of Sight Makes It Right?

Every parent at some time or another has to deal with the issue of a child lying to them. Out of Sight Makes It Right? ,by Chris Bauer deals with this issue in a very thoughtful, kid friendly way. The illustrations and the way the rhyming text and dialog are presented reminded me of reading a comic strip, which I thought worked really well. But, that’s not the best part. The best thing about this story in my opinion is that it allows the parent or caregiver to confront the problem of lying effectively in a very non-confrontational way.

Herbal Remedies

I first became interested in herbal remedies while developing a character for one of my stories. During that time I did an extensive amount of browsing, perusing the vast amount of information available on the internet.

I happened upon the Voynich Manuscript, a collection of totally bizarre sketches and notations, the meaning of which remains unknown to this day. If you really want to see some weird stuff you can go check it out for yourself. It’s one of those crazy mysteries that may never be solved.

All of this research was intriguing. However, it wasn’t until my daughter in-law commented on the forsythia growing in my yard that I really got interested in using herbal remedies myself. We were having a dinner party and she couldn’t help but notice the bright yellow blooms surrounding the patio. She mentioned reading somewhere that the Chinese used forsythia fruit mixed with honeysuckle to make tea. It was supposed to be good for a number of things, especially cold and flu. I have always loved the blooms early in spring. But I never knew they produced any kind of fruit.

I looked around my property at the twenty or so large forsythia as well as the sixty foot fence line covered in honeysuckle and realized that if this was true and it really is effective, I may have an abundant resource worth harvesting right here in my own backyard! It suffices to say my curiosity was piqued!

Right away I turned to Google. A quick search using the keywords forsythia honeysuckle tea turned up a ton of information all supporting the fact that forsythia honeysuckle tea does indeed provide health benefits related to cold and flu symptoms and has been used by the Chinese for 3000 years!

According to WebMD, forsythia is used to treat a number of inflammatory ailments ranging from tonsillitis to gonorrhea! It seemed to me throughout my research that the plant has been reported to have numerous healing properties with no reported side effects. That was good news to me!

I continued to investigate and found the website TCM Wiki to be extremely helpful. Heck, I even found a website that tells you how to make Forsythia Soap! That’s something I may try next spring!

Anyway, I set to work gathering the fruit from the forsythia. They refer to it as fruit. But, really they’re little seed pods that develop in clusters along the ends of the branches. I picked them green and dried them in the sun. There was enough to make about half an ounce of dried “fruit”. The next day my granddaughter and I picked a nice basket of honeysuckle flowers. By the way, a pile of honeysuckle flowers smells wonderful! They were also dried in the sun.

I won’t try to explain the healing properties of the tea or offer a particular recipe here. I’m no expert and there’s already a lot of information out there. What I will say is that the tea I made didn’t taste bad at all, although the forsythia did give it a slightly bitter taste. It tasted better hot and fresh than it did chilled the next day. I was not ill at the time so I can’t testify that it made me feel any better. However, I have been exposed to people in our office who have had the flu and so far I’ve been immune. Also, the psoriasis inflammation on my ankle seems to be less irritable.

I’ve decided if I do get sick I’ll give this remedy a try at the onset of symptoms. Maybe it will help me avoid a trip to the doctor. Next I’m going to make a tincture using vodka and local honey! I know it sounds crazy but I’m actually looking forward to getting the flu!

While this post was not intended to be particularly informative, hopefully I’ve at least managed to pique your interest in herbal remedies. If so you can learn a lot on the web. Or pay a visit to your local library or bookstore. I found the books listed below to be a good resource.

The Herbalist

Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies